Sports, Basketball, Men's Basketball

Notebook: Bickerstaff Shines Despite Shaky BC Shooting in Loss to Rhode Island

After last week’s success and a 3–0 start, Boston College men’s basketball was riding high under first-year head coach Earl Grant. But Grant and his new-look team aren’t immune to old foes. After a game against Rhode Island one year ago marked BC’s first win of the season, this time, the Rams handed BC its first loss of the year.

The Eagles (3–1) did not bring their early-season shooting touch with them to Rhode Island, losing to the Rams (3–0) by a final score of 57–49. Here are four takeaways from the loss: 

The Run Game

BC’s game against Rhode Island was decided by a bizarre series of scoring runs. Rhode Island came out early, creating turnovers and pushing the pace, which, combined with a solid start from beyond the arc, gave the Rams an early 8–0 lead. Still, the Eagles came right back with a 10–0 run of their own. They slowed the pace down, and T.J. Bickerstaff got good looks for seven quick points for the Eagles. The Rams responded again, getting some defensive stops and pushing the ball in for open threes to extend their lead to 20–11 just over halfway through the first half.  

The trend continued as the game progressed, and the Eagles strung together some defensive stops and started to get the ball down low. Center Quinten Post stepped up for the Eagles, getting positioning down low, as well as a drive to his left for the finish to give him nine points in the first half. The Rams then went on a 20–6 run over the next nine minutes of play to give them the lead, which they held onto for the remainder of the game.

Feast or Famine

Through three games before meeting Rhode Island, the Eagles had no trouble getting open shots and have been hitting them, coming into Wednesday’s game shooting 54 percent from the field and 39 percent from three as a team. But against Rhode Island, the Eagles went quiet.

BC started the game firing from deep more than it had in past games. The Eagles put up a few 3-pointers and mid-range jump shots hoping to find a rhythm but couldn’t connect. The Eagles finished the first half under 40 percent from the field and 1-of-8 from distance.

It didn’t help BC’s case that the Rams finished the game with 13 blocks, highlighted by an eight-block performance from forward Mahkel Mitchell.  

The Eagles could never seem to find a consistent rhythm after that stretch of blocks. They finished the game shooting 25 percent from beyond the arc and 25 percent from the field in total. The lone bright spot in shooting was that the Eagles shot 75 percent from the free-throw line.

Terrific T.J.

Although the Eagles struggled from the field for most of the game, one bright spot was Bickerstaff. He poured in a career-high 22 points for the Eagles while also grabbing 15 rebounds and shooting 50 percent from the field.  

Bickerstaff provides size and athleticism for the Eagles down low. He excels on defense and in grabbing rebounds and can slash into the lane for easy buckets when the Eagles need them. Against Rhode Island, Bickerstaff picked up more of the scoring load with DeMarr Langford Jr. and Makai Ashton-Langford held in check. After the Eagles started the game down 8–0, Bickerstaff single-handedly brought them back with a 7–0 run of his own. During that run, he hit the Eagles’ only 3-pointer of the half. 

With just over five minutes to go in the game and the Eagles down 10, Bickerstaff had a series of highlight plays that got BC back into it. First, he grabbed a big rebound and hit an and-one 3-pointer off a pass from Ashton-Langford. He then got a nice steal from the top of the key and earned a foul shot, cutting the Eagles’ deficit to five with just over four minutes to go.

A New Feeling of Energy

Facing a road crowd, the Eagles showed fight coming back from tough plays and runs by the Rams in order to make it a close game late.  

Throughout the entire first half, the Rams continued to rack up leads, but the Eagles kept fighting back, cutting their deficit to one point with under five minutes to go. Rhode Island went on a nine-minute run that seemed to put the game away for the Eagles. 

The Eagles’ energy stems from Grant. A combination of his motivation and defensive strategy has helped the rebuilding Eagles this season. Late in the second half, Grant decided to run a two-three zone and force the Rams to hit some tough shots from deep. This change seemed to slow the Rams down, as their field goal and 3-point percentage dropped below 30 percent.  Even Grant got in a defensive stance while encouraging them from the sideline.

Featured Image by Nicole Vagra / Heights Staff

November 18, 2021